Hints For An Exposition Of Mark 8 And 9.

Mark 8.

Verses 1-3: “In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them, I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat: and if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far.”—(a) Compassion of Christ even to temporal suffering; comfort for the afflicted, much more for the spiritual wants of His people. (b) He is the same as ever now. (c) It becomes us to imitate this feature in Him.

“Faint; “grow wearied.

Verse 4: “And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?”—When anything is proposed to us we naturally consider our ability of performing it, and reasonable prospect of getting it accomplished. Still the disciples ought to have remembered the power of Christ They had already seen many proofs of it, particularly a case in point. (Chap. 6:37, &c.) Extreme dulness in learning to trust the power of Christ. Just the same in us.

Verse 5: “And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven.”—Make use of the means already put in your power.

Verses 6-8: “And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people. And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them. So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets.”—Implore His blessing upon everything, and receive it with grateful hearts. Thus every temporal mercy knits the soul to Christ. Communion with God in earthly things.

The abundance that remained, after all were satisfied, is sweetly typical of the fulness that still resides in Jesus, after so many have derived from Him the blessing of salvation. Addressed to sinners: addressed to my fellow-saints.

Our Lord, after such miracles, always dismisses the multitude (see John 6:15). Probably the same reason in other instances, rejection of dignity in a world like this. Disposition of the Pharisees, willing to find an excuse for not believing, and dissatisfied with sufficient evidence. “The Jews require a sign.” Love of miraculous manifestation, no proof of a right state of heart. The true believer does not need such miracles to produce faith. Internal evidence more satisfactory.

Verses 12, 13: “And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation. And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.”—Deeply afflicted for the hardness of their hearts, and, probably, having before His eye the tremendous sign of His Messiahship, in the destruction of their state and nation. Warning, not to reject Christ, when the terms of His salvation are proposed to us.

Verse 14, &c.—See exposition of parable in Matthew.

Verses 16, 17: “And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread. And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?”—(a.) They misunderstand Christ through the carnality of their apprehensions. So Nicodemus (John 3); so the women of Samaria (John 4); so the Jews (John 6); &c., so we, by allowing our mind to ran mostly upon earthly things, are in much ignorance respecting divine things. (b.) It implied a stupid forgetfulness of the power of Christ, evidences of which ought to have been fresh in their memories. Have not all of us had sufficient evidences of the power of our Lord? Yet are we not often distrustful, and in temporal and spiritual trials afraid of being forsaken at last? (c.) Christ intends we should treasure up in our memories, and frequently refer to, the history of His gracious acts. “O forget not all his benefits.” When we feel ready to sink, sit down, and recal some of His past deliverances, and cry, “awake, oh arm of the Lord, awake, as in the ancient days.”

Verse 22: “And he conieth to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him.”—The natural blindness of this man fitted to remind us of our spiritual blindness. Applied to unrenewed mind; to the regenerated. The former blind, as regards their state by nature, their awful danger, the virtue of the remedy, the preciousness of the Saviour, the horror of hell, the blessedness of heaven.

The latter, partially blind, as to what God hath done for them; the glory of Christ, the vanity of earthly objects, the surpassing enjoyment, and reality of eternal life, the state of our fellow-men, the manner and purpose of the Lord’s dealings with us, &c. The promises and prospects held out in the book of God. Now both classes must come to the same Jesus for illumination—“I am the light of the world.”

Verse 23: “And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked if he saw ought.”—No refusal on the part of Christ. No work of mercy ever proposed to him in vain. But He seeks not to obtain honour from men; He fulfils the character which prophecy described (see Matt, 12); He uses the simplest means; He condescendingly enquires from the sufferers their success. So He sends His ministers, and through them speaks, in the Gospel’s still small voice, to the sinner’s heart; and, as the half-awakened soul begins to catch a glimpse of spiritual light, the voice of Jesus is heard gently enquiring if he sees ought.

Verse 24: “And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.”—This expression seems to denote the confusedness of his vision at first. So a sinner, at the beginning of his conversion, does not generally come into the full blaze of Gospel light; there is a progress in nature, and there is also a progress in grace. This should make us tender of the weak in faith, and lead us not to overdrive the flock. We are to desire the improvement of all; but not to feel impatient at slowness of attainment.

Verse 25: “After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.”—(a.) The Lord did not leave the cure uncompleted. So neither does He in the renewal of a sinner’s heart.

(b.) Nothing but the hand of Christ could effect the completion of the cure. So, if the Lord has begun with any of you, you must resort to Him continually to carry it on.

Verse 26: “And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.” Reason of the privacy Jesus sought, seems to have arisen from His being in the state of humiliation; and not to be fully revealed, until He should be glorified, and made known, by the descent of the Holy Spirit. Thus we are, again and again, reminded not to seek that honour which cometh from men.

Verse 27: “And Jesus went out, and His disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and by the way He asked His disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?”—He delights to hear His true followers expressing from the heart what He has taught them concerning Himself. Therefore He puts the question that they may have opportunity so to do.

Verse 28: “And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say Elias; and others, one of the prophets.”— All sorts of notions entertained by the natural mind about Christ; some say one thing, and some another; Arians, Socinians, &c, &c. Nature will utter many discordant doctrines; but grace only one account of Him.

Verse 29: “And He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto Him, Thou art the Christ.”—The answer of Peter contains that truth which is the foundation of all our hopes. All that the promised Messiah of the Prophets was, the expression of Peter contains. “Whatever, then, we find, from Genesis to Malachi, touching Him who was to come, is implied in this comprehensive declaration. Chiefly, the anointed Priest, Prophet, and King. Let us dwell a while upon each of these distinct offices, and examine in how far we cordially acknowledge each of them to belong to Jesus.

Verse 31: “And He began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”—Our Lord had hitherto kept out of sight of His disciples the prospect he now reveals to them. This is the first announcement respecting His sufferings, rejection, and crucifixion.

On this I remark (a) How constantly these scenes must have been present to His mind during the days of His flesh.

(b) How great the manifestation of love, in His being so earnestly occupied about others, while His own sorrows were enough to have filled His mind with constant matter of contemplation.

(c.) How kind and considerate to keep secret from the disciples what they could not have borne, and yet, before it took place, to prepare their minds for what was coming.

As Jesus looked forward, let us be looking back upon that decease which He accomplished at Jerusalem.

But again let us dwell a little upon the force of terms employed—that He should suffer much, &c. This may comprehend the whole of His sorrows; while the other two expressions particularize the most manifest of His outward sufferings.

He should suffer the desertion of His disciples, the scorn of the mob, the indignities from the soldiery, the calumnies from His accusers, &c.

But particularly He should be rejected—A podokimasqh The guilt of this rejection is magnified by the circumstances. He was rejected by those who had the fullest opportunities of being satisfied of the dignity of His character, and the holiness of His life. In spite of every species of evidence, from prophecy, from miracles, from life and doctrine, they said, “We will not have this man to reign over us.”

Verses 32, 33: “And He spake that saying openly. And Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned about and looked on His disciples, He rebuked Peter saying, Get thee behind me, Satan; for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.”—From the conduct of Peter we may remark the extreme unwillingness, on the part of our nature, to admit such truths as those which our Lord had asserted.

We like not suffering, contempt, and death; and though Peter was taught of God to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, yet a Christ crucified was still a stumbling-block even to him. Let us be aware of this tendency and guard against it. Let continual cry ascend to God, that we may be satisfied, and more and more delighted with a despised Saviour; and if, in following Him, we should bring down upon ourselves the contempt of our fellow-men, let us not, therefore, shrink back from the cause of our Lord.

Verse 33.—The indignation of our Lord is expressed more on this occasion than on any other. If Peter, though an apostle, and really taught of God, could so grievously mistake, may not we have cause to tremble, lest we fall into the same evil.

How shall we savour of the things of God?

(1.) Seek from God sincerity of desire, just to love what He loves, and hate what He hates; yea, to have the very mind of Christ.

(2.) Consider the continual tendency of our hearts to savour the things which are of man, and prize highly everything that tends to recover us out of this state.

(3.) Submit our minds to the testimony of God; and expect that the flesh will shrink back, but that the spirit will be blessed thereby.

(4.) Trust not to any of our erring fellow-men; but to Him whose power is adequate both to form and maintain within us a right state of heart towards Him.

(5.) Consider how blessedly Peter afterwards was taught; and let a true ambition animate us to seek the same instruction.

Verse 33.—More particularly let us enquire—

I. The meaning of “savouring of the, things of man.”

II. The various sources through which we are in danger of doing so.

I. The word rendered “to savour,” occurs in several other passages of the New Testament, and is variously translated. It denotes the sentiments of the understanding, including the bent of the will, and the affections of the heart. To “savour of the things of men,” is to judge, value, mind, and desire according to the natural mind; and consequently, to “savour of the things of God,” is to judge, value, mind, and desire according to the Spirit.

It is translated “to think” (or be of opinion), Acts 28:22; “to mind,” Rom. 8:5-16:16; Gal. 5:10; Phil. 3:19; and to “set affection upon,” Col. 3:2.

Now the charge brought against Peter was that his judgment was formed, his mind occupied, and his desires directed according to the will of the flesh. Peter was a converted man when .he was guilty of this sin; and therefore we may conclude that even we, who know God, are liable to fall into the same.

(2.) But consider some of the matters to which this expression may apply.

1. To our views of ourselves.

2. Of the present life.

3. Of earthly honour, riches, comfort.

4. Of the proper means of carrying on the work of God.

5. Of the state of our fellow-men, &c, &c.

In reference to all practical sentiments or principles of action, let us seek first to have the mind of God—a sameness of judgment, a unity in aim and purpose.

(3.) The sources whence false judgment aiises.

(a.) Unwillingness to submit to the revelation of God.

(b.) Indolence of mind preventing reflection.

(c.) Tendency to follow the opinions of others.

Verse 34: “And when He had called the people unto Him with His disciples also, He said unto them, Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”—By “coming after Christ,” we are to understand the acknowledging Him as our Teacher, Lord, and Example. The expression of our Lord is fitted to make us pause, and ask ourselves whether we really do desire this; and when we have settled that we do so, the next subject for our reflection is the condition annexed to such an aim.

(1.) To “deny ourselves,” implies first some real knowledge of our own hearts; our self-righteousness, our pride, our enmity against God, our love of this present world, our indifference to eternal blessings, &c, &c.; that having become acquainted with what we are in ourselves, we may daily deny our natural tendencies, and cherish those which are produced and maintained by the Spirit of God.

(2.) “To take up the cross “may refer to all these acts of self-denying obedience whereby the natural man is subdued and kept under.

Everything that serves to crucify our carnal mind may be called a cross. Such a cross will be very pleasant to our renewed nature. Thus prayer, meditation, self-examination, &c, &c, may all serve to weaken the power of evil within us, through the energy of the divine Spirit.

(3.) “Follow,” in the sense of imitation.

Verse 35: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.”—If the disposition of any of your minds be to preserve your life at the expense of fidelity to Christ, by indulging such a desire you forfeit present peace, and life eternal; if, on the contrary, any of you suffer the loss of life for the sake of truth, in the very act of martyrdom you shall enjoy true happiness, and in the world to come enduring glory.

Verse 36: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”—By refusing to follow Christ, or by unfaithfulness to our profession, we may gain worldly ease and present outward comfort; but what shall honor, riches, ease, profit us in the forfeiture of eternal glory.

O my Saviour, make me willing to follow Thee now in separation from evil; save me from self-deception; let not death nor torture be so terrible as the prospect of Thy frown. Let me consider what will be most profitable in the end.

Verse 37: “Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”—Let this verse arouse you who have never made the interests of your souls the chief concern. Rich —sensual—learned—prosperous—tried—eternity is at hand to you and me. O that I could feel for you as I ought. This hardness of heart—this strange recklessness of spirit—this unmoved hearing of sermons—this contempt for the godly—your whole past and present course of life is a deliberate march to perdition. Settle the question at once, how much you would ask, how large a sum you would accept as the price of your souls? If the very question shocks you, reflect that in neglecting the great salvation you are as certainly selling your souls, as if the prince of darkness were present to bargain with you, and you were to sign the horrible agreement with your own blood. My dear fellow sinners, it will not be notorious and monstrous criminality, for which the greater part of those who perish will be condemned; the crowning offence, the damning sin of the great majority will be—having neglected so great a salvation.

Verse 38: “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”—Let faith realize the scene here referred to, and to confess Christ will be no longer difficult. O how hard is it for us in a day of peace and extended profession to enter fully into the force of these words. Do we now confess Christ by openly renouncing all fellowship with evil—by cheerfully bearing the burden of His afflicted saints—by speaking of Him in the face of worldly opposition and infidel contempt? If not, what reason have we to suppose that we should be faithful in a day of severe test 1 Henceforth let us keep that day more prominently in our view; and let the glory which shall then be revealed already put to shame the false glory of a present world.

Verse 1: “And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power”—In the latter part of the previous chapter, our blessed Lord had been educating the minds of his disciples towards that condition of glory in which He shall be manifested, at His second coining; and, as an encouragement to their steadfast perseverance in the truth, He now tells them, that “the kingdom of God should come with power” during the life of some who were then present amongst His hearers. As the connection between the subjects is retained in each of the other evangelists who record this transaction about to be considered, we may be helped to a clearer apprehension of our Lord’s words from a comparison of this verse with the parallel passages in Matthew and Luke.

Matthew’s expression is, “till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” Luke, “till they see the kingdom of God.” Mark, “till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power. To what do these expressions refer?

It may be to the transfiguration which was an evident representation, and, as it were, a specimen of the coming glory. It was not actually the glory; but thereby did the Son of Man exhibit Himself, beforehand, such as He shall be in the day of His appearing, and the kingdom itself was represented in the forms of risen saints, who converse with Him.

But the phrase, “kingdom of God,” is unquestionably applicable to the full establishment of the Gospel dispensation, through the effusion of the holy Spirit; nor are there wanting reasons for preferring this latter interpretation to the former.

(a.) Because the words, “shall not taste of death,” refer more naturally to something rather remote than to any immediate event, (b.) Because it is said in Acts 1, “Ye shall receive power after the holy Ghost is come upon you;” and, Rom. 1., our Lord is said to be “declared the Son of God in power upon His resurrection from the dead;” which passages may be considered as parallel to what is here stated, (c.) The kingdom of God in grace, that is the Gospel dispensation, being the earnest of the kingdom of God in glory, the evidence derived from its establishment was well fitted to comfort the hearts, and strengthen the faith, of the disciples.

Verse 2: “And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.”—Our Lord appears to have admitted Peter, James, and John, to a peculiar nearness of fellowship with Himself. We have the evidence of this in several instances recorded in the Evangelists.

It is remarkable, that these examples have reference to His power (Mark 5:37, Luke 8:51); to His sufferings (Matt. 26:37, Mark 14:33); to His glory (Matt 17:1, Luke 9:28, and the passage before us). The peculiar pre-eminence amongst the followers of Jesus consists not in any external dignity; but in a more intimate acquaintance with Himself. Here, then, opens up a scene fitted to excite a holy ambition. In prayer, in meditation, in self-denial, let each of us strive to know more of what Christ can do, of what He has endured, and of that glory in which He is to be revealed. Knowledge of His power is a mighty source of comfort, not only as respects objects of desire, but of fear and aversion. We naturally dread pain, and poverty, and distress. When these evils threaten us, let us remember the power of Him whose word can raise the dead; but particularly when oppressed by inward evil, we feel utterly unequal to contend against our own corruptions, it is refreshing to remember, that the enemies which molest us are the enemies of our Lord, and must ultimately be entirely subdued under Him. So of the sufferings: so of the glory.

(b.) Benefit of retiring to be alone with Christ. How is it with you, my readers? Do you feel this to be true enjoyment? If we do now feel happy to be alone with Christ, how rich shall be the consolation which shall be poured into our souls, when we shall see Him in the fulness of eternity.

(c.) Even now, Christ reveals Himself to those who seek Him in earnest simplicity of mind, and is transfigured before them.

Verse 3: “And His raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.” Purity of the rest of God. Two classes—self-righteous, hypocrite.

Verse 4: “And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.”—Elias may represent the prophets, and Moses the law; they hold communion with Jesus on the theme of His sufferings, (see Luke 9:31.) So in our glorified bodies we shall still remember Calvary.

Verse 5: “And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.” Peter falls into a similar mistake with that recorded in chapter 13:33. He would have the glorious rest before going through the path of tribulation that leads to it. How many pangs of sorrow had Peter to endure before he attained the quiet enjoyment which his Master promised him. Such is the appointment of our God. Having fled for refuge to the Gospel hope; having seen, received, and embraced the promises; being brought to declare ourselves pilgrims and strangers on the earth, we shall one day reach the shore of the heavenly enjoyment. But, alas, through what floods of sorrow may our passage lie. O that I had grace to fix my eye with so steady a gaze on the prospect of the heavenly Canaan as to be little affected, either with fear, or the pressure of earthly trials.

Peter is now arrived where he finds the full accomplishment of the words, “it is good to be here.”

Verse 6: “For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.” — Imperfect creatures, though sincerely attached to the Saviour, yet naturally tremble at the manifestation of anything connected with the invisible state. So the loving disciples, who came to anoint the body of Jesus, were alarmed at the appearance of the angels.

Verse 7: “And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son; hear him.”—“Hear him.” He is henceforth to be received as the supreme authority for truth—doctrinal and practical.

Neither Moses nor the prophets are to be preferred before Him; nay, their writings can only be apprehended by the teaching of His Spirit, and the light of His instructions.